Isolation Drills: Jody DeMarco (Sixteen Jackies)

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

DeMarco: 2020 started out great. Sixteen Jackies was wrapping up the mixing of our still-unreleased third EP, Hostile Architecture, and we went on the road with the Districts for a few weeks. Actually, the last date of that tour was a sold-out show at Union Transfer on March 12, just days before the lockdown began.

SXSW had just been officially cancelled, and everyone was whispering about coronavirus everywhere we went, but the reality of the situation had yet to set in. Playing a show for 1,200 people was a little scary at the time, knowing that this would be the last gathering of its kind in Philadelphia for a while, but in hindsight, the idea is absolutely horrifying. I will say I’m glad that the Jackies got to play the biggest show of our career just before everything crashed to a halt. 

Lockdown life was eye-opening for me in many ways. My boyfriend of seven years has really bad asthma, so the second the guidelines were in place, that was that. We didn’t leave our house for anything other than groceries for months. Previously he and I lived pretty separate social lives, but the transition to our new domestic situation went smoothly. Lord knows I need other people to keep my emotional rollercoaster on its track, and I’m thankful to Dakota for being there for me through this.

Seeing so many of my friends and acquaintances blatantly disregarding social distancing took a weirdly large toll on me, though. Birthdays, weddings, sports, band practices, full-blown parties—it’s hard to sum up the feeling of watching so many of your friends and peers be so foolish for such a sustained period of time.

Then June came around and the entire country was on fire following the murder of George Floyd. People I knew were being beaten and teargassed in the streets for protesting by mindless, lockstepping brutes defending the systems that took Floyd’s life. The Proud Boys were gathering and recruiting in my neighborhood with that same police protection. I watched a video online of flash grenades going off in front of my childhood home in Fredericksburg, Va. It all felt so helpless.

I was donating entire stimulus checks to bail funds and trying to be vocal on social media but struggled with the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough. Not being out in the streets fighting what I perceive to be truly evil out of fear of spreading the virus to my loved ones is something I will be picking apart in my head for the rest of my life. 

Well, we finally got Trump out of office, but he might have destroyed democracy as we know it on the way out. 2,500 people are dying every day from coronavirus, but people are still calling the restaurant where I work every day to see if we have indoor dining. Bands are still having practice for a show that’s not gonna happen for at least another half a year.

Venues, restaurants and shops are dying, and it’s up to us to save them because our government has not. It’s hard to say that things are better, but at this point all we can do is hope that the new administration can help the people who need it the most and organize again if it does not.

How has COVID-19 impacted me as an artist? I don’t think coronavirus or the isolation has made much of an impact on me at all, but in conjunction with everything else, I’m sure this year has changed me in ways I haven’t even begun to grasp yet. I’ve felt levels of fear I’ve never felt before and wallowed in depression unrivaled in even my angstiest years.

It’s made me angry at the many parasitic systems in place in this country and proud to have played some part in making it better. It’s given me time to explore music and film in ways I never could before. It’s tested the limits of many of my closest relationships, and it’s made me think about who I am as a person harder than I ever have.

Black lives matter. Trans lives matter. Defund and demilitarize the police. Abolish ICE.